When We Can’t Forgive

When Greg Bottoms' older brother was 25, he tried to burn down his family's house when his family was inside. After fifteen years in a prison psychiatric treatment facility, the brother tried to contact the family:

I told the social worker I could not speak to him, nor could my mother, who is in her 60s now, living a peaceful life after many years of a damn difficult one. Call me cold, but our problem—his problem, but ours by extension—is intractable. I wish I could offer some kind of easy prescription here—something to do with politics and policy, with therapeutic philosophies or biochemical treatment protocols. But the mystery of mental anguish, of the mind on the outs with itself, of a version of hell made manifest in a suburban living room, is the one thing in my life that has brought me to the point where my only option seemed to be to pray. To reengage my brother would be suicidal. What choice do I have? The past comes flooding back. I cut him loose to survive.